After weeks of delays, the international peacekeeping force in Lebanon has finally started to take shape. Close to 1,000 Italian troops have arrived along with military equipment over the weekend, both by sea and by air. Rome has pledged the largest contribution and is expected to send another 2,000 soldiers. France, Spain and Portugal, along with four Muslim countries have said they will send thousands more peacekeepers over the coming weeks.
Israeli troops, who moved into southern Lebanon during the conflict, are expected to withdraw as soon as the force reaches the 5,000-mark – or in the next two to three weeks, according to the UN. Soldiers were greeted by people who shouted welcome and signalled a “V” for victory. “Our first impression was very positive,” said one Italian marine, “but we have to see what happens in the next few days.” France will remain in charge of the peacekeeping force at least until the start of next year after which Italy could take over.